One November night in the Chinese city Haikou, I was treated to a meal by two young students of English. I feel at a loss for words as to how best describe this meal… they were clearly trying to impress me.
It was taken at a large, and apparently popular, open-air restaurant (Haikou enjoys tropical climes). Each table had a pot sunk into the middle of it, which was divided into two halves and filled with boiling liquid. This liquid was kept boiling by a giant bunsen burner under the table. Our table’s pot had a ‘hot and spicy’ half and a ‘mild’ half. The ‘hot’ half was HOT and the ‘mild’ half was hot!
My male hosts then ordered a vast array of delicacies which we had to cook ourselves in one of the two halves of this ‘hot-pot’. The boys preferred the other side, I settled for the not-so-hot side and lots of beer to soothe my burning mouth and to take away the taste of some of the vast array of delicacies.
This meal was just offal
Alongside tofu, crab-sticks, green veg and bean sprouts, I had those old favourites, cow’s throat, duck’s blood, goat’s brain and duck’s intestines.
I found the throat to be a bit too “furry” and crunchy. The duck’s intestines were a little too long and chewy, and sort of squeaked in one’s mouth as one masticated. The brain was yummy, and would’ve been quite tasty squidged onto some toast. The blood was a little like the pig’s blood I had been given on another occasion, and I wasn’t too fond of it, but as a teacher I felt obliged to have some (and as a guest I was given lots).
Blood is meant to be eaten by teachers, as it counters the harmful affects of chalk dust. I didn’t realise chalk dust could be so harmful, but there we go! Another Chinese belief is that eating certain animal body parts is good for the corresponding human body part. Therefore intestines are good for one’s intestines and so on.
It’s a good job I’m not a fussy eater. In polite Chinese society, it’s customary to put all the ‘best’ bits into your guest’s dish, and encourage them to eat more. I found myself having to ‘enjoy’ the ‘best’ bits quite a lot. Sadly vegetables are not considered worthy of being generously distributed. At least I’ll have remarkably healthy intestines!